REVIEW: Clif Cereal

Clif Cereal Boxes

Have you ever thought about the relative aisle spaces allotted to the different categories within a grocery store? Who dictates that there only be, say, ten feet devoted to granola bars competing for the attention of shoppers’ gaze and wallets while cereal gets its own exhaustive full-length aisle of sometimes 20 feet or more?

Well, someone must think of these things, and I imagine at least one of those people works for Clif Bar. Because the red-shirted carabining brand has climbed its way out singular bar form and is expanding into cereals with four new Clif Cereal Flavors: Honey & Peanut Butter, Apple Cinnamon & Almond Butter, Chocolate & Peanut Butter, and Blueberry & Almond Butter.

I could only find three of the four, so this review will exclude the Apple Cinnamon & Almond Butter flavor, much to my chagrin.

Clif Cereal Inside Boxes(From L to R) Blueberry & Almond Butter, Chocolate & Peanut Butter, and Honey & Peanut Butter

Upon initial opening, these looked ehhhh healthy, brown, and not unlike granola with the surprisingly high number of whole nuts and clusters visible. But, to be honest, I was somewhat relieved to see some big pieces of inclusions because each box was just shy of $7, which seems like a lot for cereal unless it contains whole almonds.

Honey & Peanut Butter

Clif Cereal Honey Peanut Butter

I started with the Honey & Peanut Butter one, figuring it would be the most subtle. It appears all of the flavors have the same base multigrain flake, but this one also had plain dry roasted peanuts, granola-type clusters, and crunchy rice puffs covered in a peanut butter flavored coating.

The coating reminded me of that yogurt-type stuff on the bottom of some granola bars. When eaten dry, this cereal is rrroouuugh. The front of the box touts “40% less sugar than leading cereal brands,” and boy do I believe them. As someone who tends to enjoy cereal dry or with milk, I was concerned. But THANKFULLY, a little milk goes a long way here.

What happens is the milk sort of dissolves the peanut butter coating on the clusters and at the same time softens the “oh yeah, these contain fiber” multigrain flakes. The result is a more evenly distributed sweetness and almost creaminess in each bite. Really delightful and peanut-butter-like without being TOO sweet.

Purchased Price: $6.97
Size: 15 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10 (dry), 7 out of 10 (with milk)
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 240 Calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 5 grams of added sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter

Clif Cereal Chocolate Peanut Butter

The chocolate peanut butter variety, though, never really made the same comeback. This box had the same flakes, the same peanut-coated clusters (although for some reason, they were HUGE in this box), and granola clusters with unsweetened cocoa.

When eaten dry, I couldn’t really discern any cocoa flavor at all. It was mostly just bitter and dry. When consumed with milk, the same peanut-butter-meldy thing took place, but I struggled to taste any chocolate because there was only unsweetened cocoa. I was underwhelmed, especially in a cereal world with a clearly dominant chocolate PB combo player.

Purchased Price: $6.97
Size: 15 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10 (dry), 5 out of 10 (with milk)
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 240 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 6 grams of added sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

Blueberry & Almond Butter

Clif Cereal Blueberry Almond Butter

The most visually impressive BY FAR was the Blueberry & Almond Butter. There were whole dried blueberries, whole almonds, pumpkin seeds, granola clusters, our favorite little almond butter cluster dudes — this had it all!

I skipped straight to trying this with milk, and it was fantastic. There seemed to be tiny little blueberry bits throughout the cereal and clusters, making the whole bowl have a sweet, cohesive, fruity flavor immediately. I noticed that the sugar claim is only “30% less” on this box, which means I found the variety with the most sugar to be the most delicious. Surprise! Surprise!

But I think there’s something to be said about the perfect balance of whole grain goodness and fruit-derived sweetness when enjoying a breakfast cereal (or a granola bar, for that matter). I did try this one dry as well for posterity, and it was quite a bit more like a trail mix than the others. The blueberries really carried their weight here.

Purchased Price: $6.97 each
Size: 15 oz box
Purchased at: WalMart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (dry), 8 out of 10 (with milk)
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 240 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 5 grams of added sugar, 8 grams of protein.

Overall, Clif has launched cereals that stay true to the established brand expectations of Clif Bar. They are reasonably high in protein, as far as cereals go, and offer a decent amount of fiber and whole grains without nearly as much sugar as other options. They certainly fill you up without feeling like you’re actively creating cavities.

However, I think the Blueberry option, which had slightly more sugar and a blanket of fruity blueberry to meld everything together, reigns supreme. I imagine the Apple Cinnamon SKU would be decent for similar reasons. I would steer clear of the Chocolate Peanut Butter option.

REVIEW: Lay’s Summer BLT, Chile Mango, and Wavy Jerk Chicken Potato Chips

Lay s Summer 2021 Flavors

Some industries are inherently more lighthearted than others. Not everyone can save lives every day; some people have to go to work and invent new potato chip flavors!

Okay, maybe “have to” isn’t the most accurate verbiage. But when I think of these industry professionals, specifically at Frito-Lay, my biggest hope and expectation is that somewhere within that company is a running list of EVERY variety they’ve ever commercialized. “The List” of everything from the all-star favorites like the day they stumbled upon Sour Cream & Onion perfection to the more recent cringe marketing stunts like Cappuccino…whuff.

Something about the idea of this compiled data set makes me grateful for humanity and our quirks. The latest additions to The List are the 2021 summer flavor line-up of Summer BLT, Chile Mango, and Wavy Jerk Chicken.

My first impression of this line is that the bags are gorgeous. Maybe a blend of food illustrations and actual images isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I thought they were vibrant. There were WAY more images of the ingredients on these bags than other Lay’s varieties which made me wonder if I should expect bolder flavor profiles overall.

Summer BLT

Lay s Summer BLT

I’m not sure a “summer” BLT is really a thing, but maybe this is Frito Lay’s attempt to designate between the Classic BLT chips of 2012, the BLT reboot of 2017, and this latest endeavor. Overall, I would categorize these as delicate. The flavor is light, and if I were eating anything else at the same time, I don’t think I’d taste much.

I was obviously expecting to taste bacon, but oddly there wasn’t really much of it or any smokiness. Actually, these chips tasted like mayonnaise and lettuce. There was a sweetness that might have been an attempt at tomato, but overall these were subtle and underwhelming.

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (about 15 chips) – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Chile Mango

Lay s Chile Mango

These were certainly not lacking in flavor. The mango comes through bright and sweet, possibly too sweet for some, but definitely on the nose. These chips are TASTY. Usually, my biggest issue with spicy fruit combos is the heavy-handed use of lime, but that’s not the case with these chips. Could they be spicier? Definitely, but overall these are a fantastic blend of sweet mango and savory spice, and I intend to crush at least half the remaining bag while sipping a margarita in the sunshine.

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (about 15 chips) – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Wavy Jerk Chicken

Lay s Wavy Jerk Chicken

Last but certainly not least is the Wavy Jerk Chicken chip, and let’s just say there’s A LOT going on here. I tasted brown sugar, a floral spice, heat, savory garlic, and that smoky and brothy flavor that Lay’s has used multiple times to deliver the taste of charred chicken. They didn’t really meld together so much as each one shows up in a flash before the next comes barreling in.

The aftertaste is like I just ate jerk chicken, but I’m not sure the chips taste that way. They are full of flavor, though. Possibly so much so that I wouldn’t want to eat much more than a serving.

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 7 1/2 oz bag
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (about 15 chips) – 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Overall, I think these new flavors show a wide range of trendy complex flavors, but they each miss the mark by enough in their own way that I would be surprised if they stuck around longer than a single season. Not to worry, though, I’m sure Frito-Lay is already cookin’ up the next flavors to add to The List.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal Box

What is Kellogg’s Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal?

Well, it’s NOT Krave cereal stuffed full of cookie dough so, sigh that breath of disappointment now. You probably should have been able to figure that out from looking at the box, though, so I’m not going to let you mope about it for very long. This new special edition Krave cereal has a cookie dough flavored outside and the signature chocolate inside that Krave enthusiasts, uh, crave.

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal 2

How is it?

For a cereal to attempt to be cookie dough in a world where there are literally cereals made of tiny little cookies is pretty brave, Krave. The sugar saturated air that escapes when you open the box is familiar, expected, and isn’t unlike cookie dough aroma. The little cereal pieces themselves have tiny chocolate freckles on the outside sugar coating, which is unique to this flavor and appreciated by this reviewer for the appetite appeal when trying to convince me that this tastes like cookie dough.

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal 3

Trying the cereal plain, the crunchy pieces are definitely chocolatey, and the sweet sugar coating adds a different flavor, but it’s not overwhelmingly cookie dough-like. The biggest challenge is that the taste of cookie dough goes hand in hand with the texture of cookie dough. These cereal pieces are yummy, but I’m not getting very much of the raw flour, raw vanilla, gooey butter flavors of cookie dough.

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal 4

How is it with milk, though?

It’s a pretty remarkably different experience when you eat this with milk. The cereal buoys take on milk like a sponge, and the texture shift makes each bite so much closer to the texture of cookie dough. The flavor is still not spot on, but there are hints of eggy doughy notes that come through. Like most Krave cereals, it’s sort of a race to eat it before the whole bowl turns to one amalgam of soft, but who isn’t up for a speed challenge in the morning, right?

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal 5

Kellogg s Special Edition Krave Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cereal 2

Anything else you need to know?

Upon reviewing a cross-section, I’m sure it’s no shock that the chocolate insides definitely don’t “ooze” out of the cereal the way the image on the box depicts. Maybe if you microwaved it? Don’t do that.

Conclusion:

All in all, I’m more convinced than ever that the taste profile of cookie dough is elusive and complex. This special edition Krave is grasping at straws trying to hit that flavor if you eat it dry. But try it with milk and I think most people will think to themselves, “Yeah, okay, sure,” while merrily gobbling down these sugar nuggets.

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 16.7 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10 (dry), 7 out of 10 (with milk)
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup dry) 170 Calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar (includes 15 grams of added sugar), and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Java Chip Oreo and Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Package

Everyone loves a comeback story. Like the Buffalo Bills 1993 wild card victory, or Diana Nyad finally completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida after several failed attempts, or fat (yeah, fat, it’s allowed now). These are victories we can stand behind, nodding and muttering, “Well, I’ll be damned. They did it.”

With the love of a comeback in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the Rocky Balboa of cookies, the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo, and the 2007–2008 Chicago Cubs of cookies (they’re not QUITE there yet), the Java Chip Oreo.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Package

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to consider Oreo’s initial attempts. In 2018, Nabisco launched a Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo using Golden cookies and a chocolate cream that had a nearly undetectable hazelnut flavor, the cookies’ greatest flaw. Similarly, Nabisco is not new to coffee flavor combinations, having launched Dunkin’ Mocha Oreo, Latte Oreo Thins, and Tiramisu Oreo with varying degrees of success.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Open

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Open

Upon opening, the Hazelnut Oreo had me concerned. These mostly smelled of chocolate, maybe even just plain Oreo. However, the Java Chip package had a robust and pleasant coffee aroma that immediately reminded me of coffee ice cream, perhaps because of how sugary sweet it was.

Because coffee can be a strong flavor, I decided to try the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo first. To be fair (TO BE FAIR), the pressure was ON. Launching a chocolate hazelnut flavor is a huge challenge in a confectioner world dominated mainly by Nutella, a mammoth of a product that’s often imitated but never duplicated, and Oreo had already failed that test once. BUT. NOT. THIS. TIME.

Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Closeup

Friends, these updated Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo are a dream. The hazelnut flavor in the cream filling is POWERFUL, and the slightly darker, more bitter chocolate cookie rounds out the flavor delivery into an irrefutable success. I think I might have said “wow” out loud.

The flavor is not overwhelming or artificial tasting. It’s nutty, balanced, and definitely there. These might be my new favorite Oreo. I’m already thinking up what kinds of baked goods I’d like to make with them. Yum. I’m not giving them a perfect score because the creme is the standard Oreo texture, where I think hazelnut spread is usually impeccably smooth.

Java Chip Oreo Cookies Closeup

As mentioned earlier, however, the story is not as sweet for Java Chip. These cookies are certainly tasty. Using Oreo cream to emulate ice cream is definitely strategic and, in my opinion, a closer flavor match than aiming for coffee alone. But overall, I wasn’t that impressed.

The little added texture element of the tiny chocolate chips throughout the Java Chip cream certainly aided the experience. If java chip is your favorite ice cream, I can see a Dairy Queen coffee Blizzard with chopped up pieces of Java Chip Oreo Cookies being GREAT. But I wouldn’t seek these out again. There are just too many more exciting options available.

Java Chip Oreo and Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo Cookies Together

Overall, these are good, but the Chocolate Hazelnut Oreo stands out. Nabisco had some ground to recover from its 2018 miscue, and I think it’s done so here. Time will tell if it can better impress us with a coffee, java, or espresso iteration in the future.

Purchased Price: $3.67 each
Size: 17 oz (Family Size)

Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out 10 (Chocolate Hazelnut), 6 out of 10 (Java Chip)
Nutrition Facts: (2 cookies) 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of total sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Bag

Some snacks are so ubiquitous that I’m surprised there isn’t more branded competition in the US retail snack world. Chocolate coated pretzels are definitely one of those treats. Everyone understands what they are, and they’re generally appealing. But there’s maybe one or two brands tops that immediately come to mind.

When it comes to coated pretzels, Flipz is that sturdy standby brand, occasionally dabbling in seasonal flavors like Gingerbread or Caramel Sea Salt. This year, it’s Pumpkin Spice Flipz, and I was cautiously optimistic that these would be delicious. The back of the bag even promises these Flipz pair well with “…friendz!” Cute.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Waft

When I opened the bag, I was hit with a waft of pumpkin spice aroma so strong that I could have closed my eyes and convinced myself I was standing in the candle aisle of a HomeGoods. It was powerful. There was a slight buttery vanilla scent as well. I was a little concerned the flavor would be terrible.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Innards Bite

Fortunately, the smell straight out of the bag is a strange tease compared to the actual taste of these covered pretzels. The taste is sweet and pretty reminiscent of white chocolate Flipz at first. You can taste the salty pretzel, and then there’s a lingering aftertaste of pumpkin spice.

The pumpkin spice flavor is so mild at first that I’m not certain I would have noticed it if I wasn’t trying to detect it. I do think the flavor builds as you eat more, but it certainly takes its time. Not at all like the experience of opening the bag. While a lot of pumpkin spice-flavored snacks tend to overdo it, these left me wanting more.

There was also a white drizzle across some of the pretzels, but it was purely decorative. They all had a similar blend of white chocolate, vanilla, and pumpkin spice flavor despite the amount of drizzle on top.

Limited Edition Flipz Pumpkin Spice Covered Pretzels Drizzle

Overall, these seasonal Flipz are fine. You could probably open a bag of these as a fire-safe alternative to lighting a pumpkin spice candle in a small room. Thankfully, the taste isn’t at all overwhelming, and you could easily eat a full serving without wanting to boycott pumpkin spice-flavored snacks until next August.

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 7.5 oz pouch
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 oz/7 pieces) 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 12 grams of added sugar, and 2 grams of protein.